RILA: just doing something…

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RILA has been holding monthly immigration legal aid clinics since March of this year. It has been our privilege to work with immigrant families in our neighborhood, to hear their stories, and advocate on their behalf.  We have been amazed at the passion, talents and commitment of the many volunteers from our congregation.

The people of Restoration make RILA possible!

Over the past several months, we have narrowed our focus to assisting immigrant families in applying for asylum, and, specifically, families who live in our neighborhoods.  Oftentimes, families seeking asylum are not able to secure affordable legal counsel because there are not enough non-profit organizations to meet the need, and private attorneys are prohibitively expensive.

Through a connection with Arlington Public Schools, we became aware of a student at a neighborhood school who needed help to file an application for asylum.  He is a teenager, who fled his home country in Central America due to a profound amount of violence in his city.  His home country has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, outside of a war zone.

By the time we were aware of the student’s situation, there were only seven days before his deadline to file his application.  Because we want to prioritize helping those who have little to no resources, are a member of a vulnerable population, and live in our neighborhoods; we chose to take his case.

We worked with one of the assistant principals at his school, and the student, to complete and file his application for asylum in time.  It was a team effort!  We completed a task that normally takes a few months, in a few days.  This is just the first step in a long and often complicated process.  However, it is a critical step in giving this student the best possible chance at being granted asylum.

Later, the assistant principal we worked with sent us a note to say “thanks.”  She also said,

As I’ve worked with this population [of immigrant families] for almost 15 years now, I constantly meet folks who say, ‘I really wish there was something I could do.’  Yesterday I saw what happens when people just start doing something, and it was amazing.

This is the heart of RILA, which is rooted in the heart of the Gospel.  This is loving God with our whole hearts and loving our (immigrant) neighbors as ourselves.

~ Natalie Foote
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Liz adds: Would you like to get involved with RILA? There is always room for more volunteers! Reach out to Natalie, Michelle, Jason or me and we can get you connected (firstname@restorationarlington.org). No specific skills required, though attorneys, translators and people who can make coffee and smile are all particularly welcome!